Tomten is a trio from Seattle, Washington. Often described as baroque or dream pop for their prominent use of organ, electric piano and analog synthesizers, they share a wide influence from early power-pop to electric folk.
The band formed in 2008 when singer/keyboardist Brian Noyes-Watkins met original bassist Lena Simon (La Luz, Kairos) at art school. The two began recording demos in the practice rooms, and started performing regularly in 2010 after drummer Jake Brady joined. Recently they dropped their fourth album, Viva Draconia, named to invoke an authoritarian anthem sung by grey children in a grey room, or a boldly written declaration on war time propaganda. This release marks a shift from Cremation Songs, offering a record that is more personal, energetic and electronic. The additions of an acoustic 12 string and Roland SH 2000 for most of the album’s lead synth parts makes a bigger sounding record than the band’s previous output.
Now that the album is out in the world for all to hear, Tomten’s Brian Noyes-Watkins – who handles keys, guitar and vocals – is ready to share some personal commentary of Viva Draconia. Recently he took the time to offer up a track-by-track description. Listen to the album’s eight tracks below and read Watkins’ own story on each…
1. “Balance of Terror”
“Balance of Terror” was the first track I wrote for the album. I recorded the intro and outro on an old pump organ while a Czech Club below the studio celebrated one of its member’s 100th birthday. Sad we didn’t capture some of the merriment.
2. “Blue Movie”
“Blue Movie” is a pop song in the vein of Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, with that kind of instant synth gratification. It’s a song about pornographic excess and dissatisfaction, but with some whimsy!
3. “St. Martin’s Summer”
“St. Martin’s Summer” is sort of a song journal of a trip I took to England in 2017. I wasn’t in the best place emotionally but had a glorious time there. I got to see Shirley Collins play in Bristol!
4. “Celadon Song”
“Celadon Song” is about my favorite shade of green paired with Wurlitzer and Streichfett. I wrote this song on my porch on a chilly early January morning.
5. “New Leaf”
“New Leaf’ came about mainly cause I was listening to a lot of Bobby Fuller and wanted to write a song that hopefully had a similar feel to some of his but could still feature my Juno and SH 2000. It’s got an aloof and smug air to it, kind of a bratty little song, not directed at anyone in particular…Snotty Lite. It was fun tying the main melody in with the outro of “Aster” (which is the last song on Viva Draconia and completely different in mood).”
7. “Passing Show”
“Passing Show” is the last song I wrote for the record. The music was recorded before I wrote any of the lyrics. Just another song about life and death on Earth.
I wrote this song on an airplane flying back from a wedding I got to attend in Hawaii. I ended up using the outro in this song as the main melody for “New Leaf.” My friend Shenandoah (Davis) sang back ups and her sister Alenni graced this track with a little viola.
Viva Draconia is out now on Seattle label Plume Records and available via CD, vinyl, and digital formats.
Photo credit: A Francis Vilendrer